Newsflash: Volkswagen zet waterstofauto’s op de spaarbrander


+++ BMW said it will strengthen its China strategy in 2020, as efforts to meet local demands have helped make it the country’s most popular premium carmaker. Battling the downward trend in the Chinese vehicle market, the German premium automaker delivered 723.680 BMW and Mini branded vehicles; up 13.1 % year-on-year, topping the list of premium vehicle companies in the country. This was the company’s best-ever sales result since it entered China in 1994 and accounted for around 28 % of its global sales in 2019. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China, said understanding China’s strategic significance and offering products and services that local customers demand are fundamental to its development in the country. He made the remarks at an annual event last week in Beijing. “In 2020, we will continue to expand our footprint ‘In China, with China, for China and for the world’ “, Goller said. “We, at BMW, are convinced that the upcoming decade will remain a ‘decade of China’ “. He said the carmaker will deepen its “2+4” China Strategy. The number 2 means BMW and Mini, while 4 represents for automated, connected, electrified and service, or ACES for short. The company has promoted Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous functions in the country with local partners including China Unicom and Tencent. The number of BMW Connected users has exceeded 2.3 million, while smart voice-control functions including BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant and Tmall Genie are already available in several series production models. BMW is one of the best-selling premium new energy vehicle carmakers, with over 50,000 such vehicles already delivered in China. Globally, half a million have been sold. Over the past 2 years, BMW has been updating its lineup to better meet local customers’ preferences. Over 40 new models have been introduced during that time. In 2020, it will launch another 17 models in the country. Billing it as the Year of New Energy Vehicles, the carmaker will offer six such vehicles by the end of the year, including the China-made iX3. This SUV will be the company’s first electric vehicle that is made in China but sold globally. Goller said BMW has set up a network of over 400 dealers that sell new energy vehicles and a charging network composed of 130,000 public poles. The figure is expected to hit 250,000 by the end of 2020, covering 300 cities across the country. The carmaker said 2020 will also be the Year of BMW brand, which will be driven by the introduction of more M models. BMW has also made efforts to improve service experiences with its dealers. In 2019, the automaker worked out some 1,500 specific measures to improve customer experience, most of which were implemented within the year. It will further collaborate with innovative partners to expand and enrich in-car digitalized ecosystem to make the cars part of Chinese customers’ digitalized life. In terms of production facilities, its joint venture BMW Brilliance has the world’s first production base featuring 5G technology. Its second joint venture, which is established with China’s Great Wall Motors, kicked off in late 2019. It will develop and produce electric Mini branded vehicles for China and the world. “China is not only the largest single market for the BMW Group worldwide, but also a trendsetter of innovation and future consumer trends”, Goller said. “This is why we need to establish a strong innovation and production system that is in China, with China, for China and for the world”. +++ 

+++ BUGATTI chief executive Stephan Winkelmann says the car manufacturer will launch more derivatives of the Chiron. Winkelmann, who previously headed up Lamborghini and Audi Sport, is the man responsible for all the Chiron based models launched in the past 18 months, including the Chiron Sport, Chiron Super Sport 300+, Divo, Centodieci, and the one-off La Voiture Noire. Winkelmann said that the growth of the Chiron family will continue: “Derivatives are a must. The car gives us the opportunity to do so and if we didn’t, customers would not appreciate what you can get out of this car”, he said. “Special editions? No, we did them at the beginning and now I think the team have enough to do to achieve what we promised. Divo deliveries will start this year”. That second statement comes as somewhat of a surprise. Back when the Veyron was in production, Bugatti launched numerous limited-run, special edition models with distinctive interior and exterior finishes. Roughly 12 months ago, one such special edition of the Chiron was launched in the form of the 110 Ans Bugatti while in late November, 2 further special edition models arrived with the Chiron Noire Sportive and Chiron Noire Elegance. If what Winkelmann says proves to be true, then it seems apparent the marque would rather launch derivatives of the Chiron that feature some mechanical modifications as opposed to simply applying special paint finishes to limited-run examples and denoting them as ‘special edition’ models. It remains to be seen what other variants and versions of the Chiron could be launched. One I’d love to see would be a Roadster or Speedster model. It’s possible that a recent teaser shared online by Bugatti previews the latest derivative. +++ 

+++ CITROEN expects China, India and a continuing focus on SUVs will help the brand to reach its new sales goal. The brand has lowered its 2022 sales goal to 1.3 million vehicles from 1.5 million, largely because of the closing of the Iranian market, which the brand had planned to enter before the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. Citroen CEO Linda Jackson said the brand would reach the target by developing a new market in India with locally produced vehicles, revamping struggling Chinese operations and continuing to launch successful new models such as the C3 and C5 Aircross SUV models. Citroen’s global sales fell 5.1 % to 992,800 last year. Jackson will take on a new strategic role within parent PSA Group after leading Citroen since 2014, as PSA prepares for a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Citroen’s new boss will be Vincent Cobee, a former Renault-Nissan alliance executive. The European market was a bright spot for Citroen last year, with sales up by 1.2 % (Citroen includes the EU, the EFTA countries, and Balkan countries in the region).  Sales in the EU and EFTA were up by 6.4 % to 636,843 cars. Jackson said that Citroen’s market share rose to 4.9 % from 4.7 %. That growth was not enough to offset steep declines in China (down 55 % to 51,200 sales) and Latin America (down 15 %). “We are in the process of rebuilding China”, Jackson said during a conference call with analysts announcing 2019 sales figures for PSA. Jackson said PSA’s “Vitality” turnaround plan with joint venture partner Dongfeng was being put into place. That includes “new organization, new products, new dealers”, she said. Citroen will launch the C5 Aircross, including a plug-in hybrid version, in China this year, as well as the Citroen C3L, a small sedan that replaces the Citroen C-Elysee sold in China and emerging markets. About 84 % of Citroen’s sales in 2019 were in Europe, an imbalance that Cobee, the incoming CEO, aims to address. In addition to India, Jackson said there were “other markets” that Citroen could expand into. “We have all the steps in place for internationalization”, Jackson said. Iran, however, will not be one of those new markets. In 2016, soon after the Iran nuclear agreement took effect. Citroen signed an agreement with its Iranian partner Saipa to produce a range of Citroens, much as Peugeot had done with its partner Iran Khodro. After the U.S. withdrew from the pact in 2018, PSA and other foreign automakers pulled out of Iran. PSA sold 444,000 vehicles in Iran in 2017, nearly all of them Peugeots, but stopped recording sales there in the second half of 2018. Jackson, a British national, said she would not comment directly on her next role at PSA, where she will be asked to evaluate brands and report to CEO Carlos Tavares. But she said that Citroen was in a stronger position now than when she took over in 2014. “Citroen didn’t really have a proper product plan”, she said. “Its positioning was unclear. It had lost its way”. Since then, she said, Citroen has introduced a “core model strategy” that has streamlined the brand’s lineup and introduced SUVs, and prepared Citroen to meet EU emission standards with electrification, including the plug-in hybrid C5 Aircross and the coming C4 Cactus replacement, which will have a full-electric version. “Everything is in place, and I wish Vincent Cobee lots of luck”, she said. +++ 

+++ While FORD in North America is cutting out its regular passenger car lineup to favour bigger and more popular crossovers, SUVs, and pickups, Ford in Europe has been going strong with its product offerings. With their long-term goals in mind, Ford in Europe has made a substantial investment in their production facilities in Valencia Spain to the tune of €40 million, with the Galaxy and S-Max enjoying a thorough refresh and introduction of hybrid models. The European market has always had a love for estates, MPVs and anything built with practicality in mind, hence the popularity of the Galaxy and S-Max. The Galaxy has the distinction of being the first ford MPV to be introduced outside of America in 1995, with the S-Max joining it in 2006. Both are MPVs, with the S-Max straddling the lines between a saloon and full-blown MPV; an awkward estate, if you will. The investment has allowed the creation of 2 new assembly lines that will create the batteries needed to power the new Kuga hybrids, S-Max hybrids, and Galaxy hybrids, and is set to begin production in September of 2020. The addition of the hybrid versions of Ford’s MPVs will provide a great alternative to their diesel-powered stablemates, all while offering the same creature comforts and flexibility. The influx of money has also allowed the production of these new hybrid vehicles alongside the new battery assembly lines; bringing the carmaker a step closer to the goal of introducing 14 electrified vehicles in Europe by the end of 2020. Both the Galaxy and S-Max hybrids will be powered by a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine, electric motor, generator, and lithium-ion battery. The goal is to aim for at least 200 hp and 200 Nm of torque with a 1.500 kg towing capacity. “With electrification fast becoming the mainstream, we are increasing our investment in Valencia to provide even more electrified models and powertrain options for our customers”, says Stuart Rowley, president, Ford of Europe. “By making it easier than ever to transition into an electrified vehicle, we expect the majority of our passenger vehicle sales to be electrified by the end of 2022”. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen group CEO, Herbert Diess, recently announced that the German car making giant would stop funding its fuel cell program because FUEL CELL VEHICLES (FCEV) aren’t seen as competitive in the next decade. The decision has been taken within the group to focus entirely on battery-powered electric vehicles that are seen as a much sounder bet for the near future. He recently told Reuters that if VW doesn’t change itself to provide the kinds of vehicles that the market actually wants now, it could face the same fate as Nokia. The Finnish mobile handset maker, which used to be a world leader, is nowhere near as big a player as it once was, losing out to the likes of Apple and Samsung because it couldn’t adapt to changing market trends. So in order to stay competitive, Diess says VW will have to devote its resources towards becoming a manufacturer of electric, connected cars and move away from traditional fuel-burning vehicles. And since battery electric vehicles seem like the hot ticket right now, VW wants to put all its eggs in that basket. Diess is convinced “the era of the classic carmakers is over”, and that in order to ensure the company’s longer term success, it must fully embrace the EV trend. It is not the first time he has expressed his view that hydrogen fuel cells are not the way to go (at least for another decade), but it’s the first time he has actually announced development work on this tech will be dramatically scaled down. At the same time, one of the VW group brands, Audi, is expected to launch a limited series FCEV sometime this year, or in 2021. What will become known as the Audi h-tron may be a China-exclusive model, though, especially since the Chinese government is offering subsidies for the development and proliferation of vehicles that have this kind of power source. Volkswagen recently announced that it has raised its EV sales target for the next few years. It is confident it can shift 1.5 million vehicles from its new ID family of models by 2025. The first is the ID.3 whose production started in November, 2019; the automaker says it has over 37.000 reservations for the model and as it adds more electric models into its lineup, it will broaden the appeal of its ID. series (especially once the production version of the I.D. Crozz goes on sale). The automaker has an even more ambitious target set for the year 2028, though. By that year, VW wants to sell no fewer than 22 million EVs and some analysts are wondering whether or not this is an overly ambitious goal. We’ll also have to wait and see if this shift in company policy towards fuel cells will affect Audi’s planned model launch which was not directly alluded to by Diess. +++ 

+++ For JAGUAR LAND ROVER , 2019 was composed of 2 distinct halves in China, where the overall vehicle sales had fallen for 2 years in a row. Like most brands operating in the country, the British premium carmaker was plagued by sales slumps in the first half, but reversed the trend by reporting a 24 % growth in the second half. Tim Howard, executive vice-president of JLR China, said the result was thanks to Project Dragon, a program initiated 12 months ago to “fix the basics” in marketing, sales and services. He said the company’s fast expansion in past years has resulted in a number of growing pains: the system’s processes and retail network were underdeveloped in some places. Such imperfections became glaring when the market slowed down and became more competitive (China saw its first dip in vehicle sales in 2018 in almost 30 years) and the company decided it had to do something to consolidate the fundamentals. Then the project, composed of 46 items, was initiated. Aimed at cutting costs and improving efficiency of the sales, marketing and service systems, it also seeks to build a sustainable organization for the future. “There is not a silver bullet you can shoot to change a company”, Howard said. “There are a lot of things you need to bring together”. Encouraging results started to emerge following the arduous work by JLR China in collaboration with the British team headed by Richard Shore, who was involved in JLR’s Project Change. Project Change is a global turnaround plan started in 2018 to cut costs and improve cash flows by €3 billion over 18 months. By the end of 2019, JLR China had cut the inventory level of its dealers to 1.5 months, from 2.2 months at the end of 2018. Those figures are better than the industry average. Their collaboration is expected to further facilitate the Project Dragon this year as Shore began serving as president of JLR and its Chinese joint venture’s integrated marketing, sales and service in China on January 1. Shore worked at JLR China for 4 years as chief financial offer and acting president from 2013 to 2016. In a statement late last year, JLR said it hoped Shore’s understanding of the Chinese market, customers and retail business will help transform the company’s operations in the country, its largest market globally. Shore said Project Dragon fits with Project Charge. Both are concerned with improving effectiveness and efficiency in operational processes. “I am helpful because I bring the global expertise about the Project Charge from the UK into China”, said Shore. He said he will work with Howard to further promote the Project Dragon to a new level. The project has 3 phases: fix the basics, regain the confidence and accelerate the growth. “The Project Dragon has been going for a year and we have made tangible results. Implementation is everything”, Shore said. “The focus is to make sure that we have sustainable growth”. +++ 

+++ OPEL has shuffled its sales and marketing leadership, naming Andreas Marx as head of those operations for Germany, replacing Ulrich Selzer, who will take on a strategic role to develop the brand’s internationalization. Tobias Gubitz, now head of brand marketing and strategy, will succeed Marx as head of product and pricing for Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall, the automaker said in a statement. Patrick Fourniol, now head of marketing at Vauxhall, will take over Gubitz’s position. Peter Hope, currently head of customer experience at Vauxhall, will succeed Fourniol as marketing chief at Vauxhall. Marx joined Opel in 1997, and has held positions in aftersales, sales and marketing, pricing, and product management. Gubitz joined Opel in 2014 from the consumer goods company Henkel, and Fourniol came to Opel in 2018 after holding positions at Renault and Toyota. Opel / Vauxhall sales fell 5.9 % in 2019 to 977.100 from 1.04 million, but the brand dropped several models developed under former owner General Motors, including the Karl, Adam and the Cascada. The Mokka X is also being discontinued ahead of a replacement expected this year that was developed on PSA architecture. About 96 % of Opel’s sales in 2019 were in Europe, according to figures from its parent company, PSA Group. The brand is pushing to develop international markets, starting with Russia, where it produces the Zafira Life passengervan at PSA’s factory in Kaluga and imports the Grandland X. The Zafira Life will be joined by the Vivaro commercial version early this year. Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller said the brand would enter 20 new export markets by 2022. +++ 

+++ Land Rover is bouncing back from a tumultuous 18 months with development under way on what could be the firm’s most important model: the new RANGE ROVER SPORT . Fresh from the successful launch of the Defender, the order bank for which is already well above projections, JLR also returned to profit last year under the firm’s crucial ‘Project Charge’ recovery plan. Engineers and designers have now shifted their focus to what should be an even bigger profit generator: the 2022 Range Rover Sport. The third-generation Porsche Cayenne rival is expected to stick closely to the formula of today’s model. It will adopt more electrified powertrains and a range of enhanced technology and will aim to retain the balance of luxury and dynamic ability for which both previous models were renowned. Today’s Range Rover Sport will be celebrating its 7th birthday in March and this year it will receive a subtle makeover alongside the addition of a mild-hybrid straight-6 Ingenium engine. Under normal circumstances a 7 year old vehicle would be close to the end of its life, but the massive engineering operation of introducing the new ‘3-in-1’ MLA hybrid platform has slowed the roll-out of the company’s new-generation premium models. While the launch priority will be the new Range Rover flagship model, which is due to be unveiled next year, it is the closely related Sport model that has been the serious cash generator since the original was launched in 2005. Before Ford sold Land Rover in 2008, it had been strongly rumoured across the industry that the Mk1 Range Rover Sport generated the highest profit margins of any Ford product globally. Even though annual sales were a modest 35.000 or so, customer enthusiasm for the car meant the showroom transaction prices were extremely healthy. It was the current Mk2 Range Rover Sport, however, that really changed JLR’s fortunes, with the model outperforming the Range Rover and its sales peaking as high as 80.000 annually. Land Rover, like most car makers, declined to reveal the average transaction price of a Mk2 Range Rover Sport, but even a relatively conservative €100,000 each would represent €8 billion annual income at retail prices. To retain this success well into the future, a key fundamental ingredient for the new model is handling that belies its size and weight, as was achieved with the first and second-generation versions. Styling is also crucial. More than one senior designer from a rival car maker has said the current Sport is a favourite contemporary design; something that is clearly reflected in its performance in the showroom. It is expected that the Mk3 Range Rover Sport won’t repeat the huge design shift seen from the Mk1 to the Mk2. As with the Discovery, changing the formula too radically would be considered too big a risk. Building another Sport with class-leading handling should not be a huge challenge given the move to the new MLA hybrid platform. The first new car off this architecture will be the battery-powered XJ EV, which JLR says will be revealed after March. Few concrete details have emerged about the MLA. It is substantially constructed of aluminium and will be notably lighter than the outgoing D-series of aluminium platforms, which resulted in cars that were often no lighter than steel-platformed rivals. Like rival all-new architectures from BMW and Mercedes, MLA will allow JLR to produce mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric versions of the same model on the same production line. For plug-in and hybrid models, power to the rear wheels will be provided by an electric motor. On the road its torque-vectoring capabilities will greatly improve agility, while off road the ability to finely feed torque to the rear wheels also promises another step-change in capability. While the 2021 Range Rover is said to get a BMW-sourced V8 thanks to its status as an outright luxury model, the new Range Rover Sport is expected to have an emphasis on eco-friendly performance. Like today’s refreshed car, the flagship Sport model will again have a forced-induction straight-6 with mild-hybrid and full-hybrid assistance. A 4-cylinder hybrid model is also likely for the Mk3 Sport, and there’s a possibility that the new four-pot will be BMW-sourced as JLR moves towards a comprehensive powertrain alliance with the German maker. The mix and choice of powertrains for the new-generation JLR cars is the most important aspect of the new project as well as the most expensive aspect of the vehicle. According to JLR’s own research, by 2026 it expects battery-electric vehicles to account for 23 % of the global market segments in which JLR competes. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are pencilled in at 16 % of the market, diesel 12 % and petrol a surprising 49 %. These figures are for global markets and, as JLR admits, are difficult to estimate. However, JLR’s biggest models are the least suitable for formatting as pure-electric models because of their weight and frontal area. A pure-EV Range Rover Mk. 5 is likely, but it will be a shorter-range city vehicle aimed at Asian megacities. The Jaguar I-Pace has years of life ahead of it, and it’s likely that the upcoming ‘Road Rover’ will represent the backbone of JLR’s electric vehicle sales. According to documents published by JLR last year, its MLA roll-out plan starts with a ‘Large Sedan’ (the Jaguar XJ) and a Large SUV (Range Rover Mk. 5), then a ‘Medium SUV’, thought to be the lower and sleeker Road Rover. But the new Sport should make the biggest returns on JLR’s huge investments. The company expects its flattened profit margins to leap back to 7 % – 9% beyond 2023, putting the British car maker back in premium territory and settling it into a new period of calm. +++ 

+++ Tesla continues to lead the electric vehicle race but other car manufacturers are also experiencing greater demand for their EVs, including RENAULT . In 2019, the French automaker sold a total of 62.447 electric cars around the world, a significant jump up from the roughly 49.300 EVs that it sold in 2018 and the 36.300 sold back in 2017. The vast majority of EVs sold by Renault came in the form of the cute Zoe, shifting a total of 48.269 units throughout 2019 and 4.853 in December. The next most popular EV from Renault is the Kangoo Z.E. (10.349 units sold) followed by China’s City K-ZE with 2.658 sales and the Master Z.E. with 296 sales. The Renault SM3 Z.E. sold exclusively in South Korea accounted for 875 sales. These figures do not include the Renault Twizy as it is considered a light or heavy quadricycle depending on the market. “Group sales rose in the last quarter thanks to the success of new launches in the group’s core markets such as Europe, Russia, and in India, where Renault is growing strongly”, sales and regions executive vice president of Groupe Renault, Olivier Murguet said. “In 2020, we will benefit from full-year sales of our best-selling new Clio and Captur, as well as the acceleration of our electric and hybrid offensive, notably with the facelifted Zoe, Twingo Z.E. and E-Tech hybrid technology. We will continue to improve our price positioning initiated in 2019, supported by the quality and attractiveness of our new products”, the executive added. +++ 

+++ SONO MOTORS , the German startup working to serially produce a solar-charged electric car, said it has achieved a crowdfunding goal that will let the company stay in business. The sum passed its €50 million goal Saturday, the company said. Sono started the move to crowdfunding in December, after talks with potential investors brokedown. Financial backers had demanded the company give up on the Sion car because they said it cost too much to manufacture, the company said in a statement at the time. “We realized again and again over the past few months that we have entirely different goals to traditional financial investors”, CEO Laurin Hahn said. “Aggressive growth and quick profits are difficult to reconcile with a sustainable corporate and vehicle concept”. The crowdfunding pushed back the expected production start of the car to Sept. 2021. The company had originally planned to start in 2019. If and when completed, the Sion would be able to charge conventionally through a power outlet or through solar panels integrated into the body that would generate as many as 34 km. Overall, the vehicle would have a range of 255 km. +++ 

+++ SUBARU , long a laggard in electrification, plans to go greener with a target to get at least 40 % of its global sales from full-electric or hybrid vehicles by 2030. Then, in the first half of the 2030s, the Japanese automaker plans to electrify every vehicle in its global lineup. In announcing the new campaign, Subaru also unveiled the first design study for the full-electric crossover it is co-developing with Toyota for sale before 2025. The full-sized EV mockup, shown during a technology briefing at Subaru’s global headquarters, is a low-slung ride with a raked rear window, elongated cabin, digital sideview mirrors and short front and rear overhangs. The front fascia is aggressively creased, while the wheel wells get heavy black cladding that lends the tires a rugged, oversized look. Subaru will achieve the electrification targets by introducing the EV along with a range of what it calls “strong hybrids” based on Toyota’s system, chief technology officer Testuo Onuki said. The goals are part of wider objectives to reduce the automaker’s carbon footprint, while improving the safety and drivability of Subaru vehicles. The move comes as Subaru races to adjust its all-wheel-drive lineup to surging demand for an onslaught of pricey next-generation technology, covering everything from electrification and autonomous driving to connectivity. CEO Tomomi Nakamura said Subaru faces big challenges as a small automaker. “In this era of a once-in-a-century change, we would like to explain what Subaru aims to become and what kind of technologies we are working on”, Nakamura said. “As a small carmaker, we need to think about how to enhance Subaru’s uniqueness so consumers differentiate us from others”. Subaru said that by 2050 it will slash the average well-to-wheel carbon dioxide emissions of new vehicles by 90 % compared with 2010 levels. And by 2031, it will also cut direct carbon dioxide emissions from its factories, offices and other facilities by 30 % from 2017 levels. In the area of safety, Subaru said it also wants to eliminate fatalities among occupants of Subaru vehicles by 2030. It will do that by improving the responsiveness and stability of its vehicles, while also upgrading its trademark Eyesight driver-assist system with new high-tech functions. The electrification plans flesh out Subaru’s roadmap to next-generation mobility. It currently offers a so-called e-Boxer mild hybrid powertrain that was developed in-house for Japan and other markets. And in the U.S., it sells a plug-in hybrid XV. But Subaru’s new global platform is designed to accommodate gasoline-only and hybrid layouts. So it will leverage that flexibility in electrifying more offerings, Onuki said. Subaru will lean on partner Toyota for help with the hybrids. It will adapt Toyota’s 2-motor system to Subaru’s horizontally-opposed engine and all-wheel-drive layout. The setup positions the 2 motors in a longitudinal array, behind the engine and along the axis of the propeller shaft. But Subaru is not prioritizing a U.S. rollout for the new battery-powered offerings. Nakamura said he was skeptical of overall demand for the gasoline-sipping vehicles in the company’s biggest market, noting that Crosstrek plug-in hybrid sales were lackluster. A market for electrified cars will eventually take hold, he predicted, but it will take a while. “The U.S. market is really tough”, Nakamura said. “I think that the market for electrified vehicles will take some more time to form in the U.S. Only Tesla’s EVs are selling well. We need to watch carefully how the market trend will change, going forward. But I think a trend toward electrified vehicles will emerge, without doubt, so we would like to make preparations for that”. +++ 

+++ TESLA has agreed to buy a property on the outskirts of Berlin, bringing it a step closer to opening its first European factory, local authorities said. The U.S. carmaker last November announced plans to build a giant factory in Grünheide, in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, giving it the coveted “Made in Germany” label just as local rivals prepare to launch competing models. Tesla’s board of directors approved a purchase agreement with the state of Brandenburg to acquire a 300-hectare property, Brandenburg government spokesman Florian Engels said in a statement. The state parliament’s finance committee had already approved the sale on January 9. A Tesla spokeswoman confirmed the deal. The agreement states a preliminary property price of €41 million euros which can be amended if an external review provides a different value, Engels said. The property is in a designated industrial area and is being checked for weapons from World War II as there are most likely unexploded U.S. bombs still in the ground, he added. Politicians, unions and industry groups have welcomed Tesla’s move which is expected to create up to 7.000 jobs in Brandenburg. But some 250 locals took to the streets to protest, fearing the factory could endanger the water supply and wildlife in the surrounding forest. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA has bold growth plans in Europe, fueled by new models including a small SUV. The automaker aims to increase sales of its Toyota and Lexus brands by 30 % to 1.4 million by 2025 in its European region, which includes Russia and Turkey. Last year, sales of the Toyota and Lexus cars were 1.09 million, giving the group a market share of 5.3 %. The company forecasts its share will grow to 6.5 % as part of its 5-year plan called “Ace2000”. The plan includes the launch of 40 new or updated electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and full-electric vehicles, Toyota says. Much of the growth will be from sales of the new small SUV that will debut at the Geneva auto show in March. Sales will start 12 months later. The SUV will be positioned below the C-HR and will join a booming segment, competing against models such as the Volkswagen T-Cross, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur. The vehicle will be built alongside the new-generation Yaris at Toyota’s plant in Valenciennes, France. It will share its hybrid drivetrain with the Yaris. “The fact that that its locally built indicates that it will be high volume”, said Toyota Europe’s sales and marketing boss, Matt Harrison. The automaker expects to sell more than 100.000 units of the SUV a year, Harrison told. Half of Toyota’s project growth in Europe will come from sales of the small SUV, the new RAV4 plug-in hybrid and the recently announced Proace City compact van, Harrison said. The Proace is built by PSA Group and is similar to the Peugeot Partner and Opel Combo. Toyota is not chasing a bigger market share at the expense of profits, according to its European chief, Johan van Zyl. A higher market share will “optimize the business model to make sure that we have full utilization of resource capacities” and increased economies of scale, he said. Toyota expects its 2019 profit in Europe to be higher than its earnings nearly €1 billion in the region in 2018, Van Zyl said. The European division had a profit margin of 4.2 % in the first half of 2019. Sales of Toyota and Lexus vehicles increased sales 4.8 % to 797.397 last year in the EU and EFTA for a market share of 5.0 %, according to data from industry association ACEA. In Russia, Toyota and Lexus’s combined sales fell 5.1 % to 125.992 for a 7.2 % market share. Toyota predicts that 70 % of its European sales will be hybrid cars by 2025; up from 52 % now. Plug-in hybrids will account for 10 % and zero-emission vehicles including battery-powered and fuel cell cars for another 10 %, the automaker predicts. Toyota plans to offer pure combustion engine vehicles only in sports cars, off-road vehicles and commercial vehicles. The plug-in hybrid version of the RAV4 will launch in the second half with an electric-only range of 65 km and a CO2 emissions figure of 29 grams per km as measured on the WLTP cycle, Toyota said. The automaker says it will launch at least one plug-in hybrid car a year between now and 2025. Lexus is launching the UX 300e electric SUV, the group’s first full-electric car in selected markets in Europe this year. The compact SUV has a target range of 300 km in the WLTP cycle. The UX with an internal combustion engine helped Lexus to achieve as sales record in Europe last year. The brand’s sales increased 14 % to 87,206 vehicles in EU and EFTA, according to figures from Lexus. Harrison said he expected Lexus sales to grow by another 40.000 to 50.000 cars a year by 2025 and help Toyota achieve its 1.4 million target. +++ 

+++ Sino-German joint venture FAW- VOLKSWAGEN will launch 29 models, including 6 new energy vehicles, this year in China, where it sold the most cars of any vehicle manufacturer in 2019. Despite the headwinds of China’s overall vehicle market, FAW-Volkswagen delivered 2.13 million vehicles, beating rival SAIC-Volkswagen and reaching a record high in the company’s 28-year history. Liu Yigong, president of the joint venture, said,”FAW-Volkswagen went through an extraordinary year. We have made great efforts and achieved results in brand building, system building, digitalization and new services”. The joint venture has 3 brands and each posted encouraging results in 2019. Sales of Audi branded vehicles totaled 688.888 in 2019; up 4.2 % year-on-year. Volkswagen brand saw its sales reach around 1.40 million; up 0.5 % year-on-year. Jetta, which spun off the Volkswagen brand in late 2019, delivered 45.000 vehicles. “FAW-Volkswagen has not only won the sales championship, but also became an automobile company with extensive market coverage, excellent brand reputation and solid development foundation for sustainable and high-quality growth”, said Andre Stoffels, the joint venture’s first vice-president responsible for finance. For example, the company opened the largest proving ground in Asia last year. A 960 million yuan technology development center kicked off construction as well. The carmaker developed 22 models last year, taking into consideration the preferences of Chinese customers. The joint venture has also built a team of over 2,000 people across its 5 manufacturing bases in the country to ensure the quality of its vehicles through the whole processes, from purchase to after-sales services. Thanks to its solid foundation, FAW-Volkswagen has set more ambitious sales goals for its 3 brands, although the overall market is expected to face a downturn in 2020. “China’s overall economic situation is good from the perspective of historical development”, Stoffels said, “so there is still a lot of potential in the automotive industry”. The Volkswagen brand will strive to realize a target of 1.43 million sales. Audi will aim for 700.000 and Jetta will shoot for 200.000, executives said. Sun Huibin, executive vice-president of the joint venture’s Audi division, said the brand will offer 23 all-new or facelifted models this year as part of its efforts to push sales over 700.000. Audi was the most popular premium vehicle brand in the country over the past 3 decades. By the end of 2019, it had delivered 5.9 million vehicles in China, the largest customer base among all premium vehicle brands. Jetta has unveiled 3 models, the latest a mid-sized SUV. It has built a sales network of around 200 dealerships across the country, which is expected to reach 285 by the end of this year. Liu said there are many challenges and great opportunities awaiting the joint venture, adding that FAW-Volkswagen will define 2020 as the year of transformation. “We will inspire the potential of Volkswagen, Audi and Jetta and transform ourselves to offer high-quality products and services”, Liu said. +++

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